Nuwaubian cult leader's molestation
trial could create circus
Associated Press/January 3, 2004
By Mark Niesse
Eatonton -- After months of common-law tactics and protests by
followers dressed as Egyptian pharaohs, mummies and birds,
Nuwaubian cult leader Malachi York's child molestation case
finally heads to trial Monday. And officials are doing all they
can to keep the courtroom from turning into a circus.
"It's like living in bizarro world,'' said Frank Ford, an
attorney who has argued with the Nuwaubians in court. "They cannot
stand being told no, and they cannot stand being ignored.''
York, who moved the quasi-religious United Nuwaubian Nation of
Moors from New York to a central Georgia farm in 1993, faces 13
federal counts of molestation and racketeering. A plea bargain
nearly a year ago was rejected by a judge who felt the proposed
15-year prison sentence was too lenient.
The trial, which was moved 225 miles from Macon to Brunswick
because of pretrial publicity, could be dogged by Nuwaubian
supporters dressed in Indian garb. Hundreds of protesters have
turned out to many of York's court hearings, sometimes beating
drums or handing out anti-government literature.
York, aka "Chief Black Thunderbird Eagle,'' has unsuccessfully
argued he has American Indian heritage and shouldn't be judged by
the U.S. court system.
In previous hearings, he's responded to a judge's questions
with answers based in common law, such as "I accept this for
One time, York refused to stand when U.S. District Judge Ashley
Royal entered the courtroom. Two U.S. marshals pulled him to his
feet and held him until Royal told the courtroom to be seated.
"You have this mocking of the court system,'' said Putnam County
Sheriff Howard Sills. "These victims have been jerked around and
... it doesn't give the public a lot of confidence.''
Hoping to head off potential disruptions, Royal this past week
ruled that York's supporters won't be allowed to demonstrate
outside the courthouse during the trial, which could last up to
three weeks. York's attorney, Adrian Patrick, said he didn't
expect protesters to cause any problems, but he couldn't promise
York wouldn't resort to unorthodox legal tactics.
"I can't say definitively what will and what won't come up,''
Patrick said. "It will ultimately be up to the defendant.''
Prosecutors have said they plan to make a case that York used
his status as a religious leader for sex and money, enriching
himself, marrying several women and abusing young girls who were
part of his sect. District Attorney Fred Bright, who is heading a
planned state prosecution to follow, has accused York of having
sexual contact with as many as 13 girls and boys, including
instances of sexual intercourse.
York, 58, has maintained he's being unfairly prosecuted because
of a vendetta by small-town authorities who dislike the mostly
black members of his cult for their unusual practices and a
neo-Egyptian compound that includes pyramid-like structures
complete with hieroglyphics.
The Nuwaubians, who once claimed 5,000 members but now are down
to a few hundred, have actually gone through several
transformations since moving to their 476-acre compound. They've
dressed as cowboys and American Indians, claimed to be Muslim and
Jewish, and York has said he's an extraterrestrial from the planet
At a Christmas parade in Brunswick, the Nuwaubians said they
were a Mason's group as they handed out literature and asked
spectators about the guilt or innocence of York. Their delegation
in the parade included depictions of the Egyptian pharaoh Rameses,
participants wearing bird and cow masks, and a group of mummies